House District 42 will soon have a new representative for the first time in more than 16 years, and Democrat Edward Cardillo Jr. is looking to bring the same philosophy as the seat’s previous occupant.
Stephen Ucci, who had represented Johnston and Cranston since 2004, announced early this summer that he would step away from the State House following back surgery. The only other Democrat on the ballot when Ucci made his surprise announcement, shortly before the filing period ended, was Cardillo.
The move was criticized by some as a passing of the torch, but Ucci said he had been mulling the decision for a while. He endorsed Cardillo, who ran unopposed in the primary, and told the Sun Rise that he thinks the candidate will “do a great job.” Cardillo faces Republican challenger Frank Ricci this November.
“Of course his endorsement means a real lot, because Rep. Ucci was very good for the district,” Cardillo said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He brought a lot to the district. He was helpful to the town for anything that he could do or they needed, and to be honest with you, I’ve been on this [House of Representatives District Committee] for 14 years and when he decided not to run, we sat down and I decided to give it a run.”
Cardillo has some past government experience beyond the district committee, running for Town Council on a couple of occasions and serving on the Johnston Democratic Town Committee and Johnston Housing Authority board.
Cardillo was not endorsed by the JDTC, but he has no hard feelings.
“I’m endorsed by the State Rep. Committee, so I don’t think it would really make a difference that much. The town committee, they can endorse whoever they want, I guess,” Cardillo said. “If they want to endorse just the local officials, that’s fine. As a matter of fact, I was on the rep committee and that’s the only endorsement we made was for Stephen Ucci. I served on that district committee for 14 years, and we never endorsed Council or School Committee or anything.”
JDTC Chair Richard DelFino III confirmed that the district committee often handles those endorsements. He noted there was no request put before the local board to throw support behind Cardillo.
“Rep. Ucci did not call for a meeting or discussion relative to his exiting the race,” DelFino, who serves on the district committee, said. “No one knew about it. He put his name in, but the committee, none of us knew about it with the exception of Cardillo. There was no request of Edward Cardillo to be endorsed by the JDTC. So we chose to take no action because of the way that whole thing proceeded.”
Cardillo, a mechanic by trade, said his major initiatives include seeing through the car tax phase-out, ensuring proper funding for schools in the district and continuing the RhodeWorks program.
“My thing is, I enjoy helping people,” Cardillo said. “It’s all I’ve done all my life, and some of the main goals I have are phasing out the car tax. I definitely want to phase out the car tax. In the school systems, I want to make sure the school systems are funded. That’s a main priority, especially now. Every year you have more and more kids coming to the schools, and we have a lot of aging in schools, so all the money we can get for the town for schools, we need. We do have older schools.”
Ucci vouched for Cardillo over the summer on another key matter – the landfill. The former representative said Cardillo is “keenly aware” of the need for balance on the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation board. Ucci prided himself on getting more local residents involved in the proceedings, representing the two municipalities closest to the facility.
“My major concern is Rhode Island Resource Recovery, when we used to have the smells from the landfill, which we haven't had that much lately,” Cardillo said. “I’m sure Stephen Ucci has taken care of that, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future. The main concern with Resource Recovery is appointing members from District 42, because that’s what the landfill affects mostly. We surround the whole landfill.”
Cardillo is especially passionate about another local issue. He sent out a press release this month calling for lowering the speed limit on Hartford Avenue, telling the Sun Rise this week that “it’s like a racetrack up there.”
He said constituents have reached out to ask for more traffic control in the area, and Cardillo said increased police presence is the only way to make the area safer. He said high speeds pose special danger to those pulling out of side streets or backing out of their driveways onto Hartford Avenue.
“There’s always accidents and the speed is way too high on Hartford Avenue,” Cardillo said. “You take your life in your hands any time you drive up and down Hartford Avenue. I mean the average speed has got to be at least 60 mph, and there’s no divider in the middle of the road, nothing. That’s a big concern. Personally I believe they need a lot more. The only way to deter speed is to put a police cruiser out there, that’s the only way you’re going to do it.”
Cardillo said he doesn’t see many issues across District 42 other than Hartford Avenue. He said residents are “middle-class, working people” who are “very kind and very unique and very warm.”
“It’s just a middle-class community who just goes along to get along, and of course they want their property kept nice, they want their trash picked up, normal, everyday things that people want are supplied in the town of Johnston and Cranston,” Cardillo said. “They’re very nice cities and towns, they’re very well kept.”